First Lines Friday – 08 October 2021

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“It was the exploding unicorn that finally broke him.
Until she accidentally brained the most eminent pastry chef in London with a projectile hoof, Sylvie Fairchild had been casually speculating whether—like her ill-fated unicorn cake—Dominic De Vere also contained a hidden robotic mechanism.”

Do you recognise the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 08 October 2021”

Book Review: The Darkest Temptation by Danielle Lori

Check out my review for The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)!
Check out my review for The Maddest Obsession (Made #2)!

Goodreads: The Darkest Temptation (Made #3)
Publisher: Self-published
Published: 10 December 2020
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance, Mafia

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

A fortune teller once told Mila she’d find a man who would take her breath away. She refrained from telling her it would be literally while Mila ran for her life.

Having always done what is expected of her, Mila dresses the part, only dates college boys with exemplary backgrounds, and doesn’t ask questions. Not about her papa’s absences or his refusal to let her set foot in her birthplace—Russia. Suffocated by the rules and unanswered questions, Mila does what she’s always wanted to. She boards a plane to Moscow.

She never expected to fall for a man on the way. One with unexplained wealth, tattoos on his hands, and secrets in his eyes. But it doesn’t take long for his caress to become a rough grasp muffling her screams.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Unfortunately, a Russian winter is the coldest of them all, and Mila soon learns the only way to escape intact is to do the impossible and thaw her captor’s heart.

TL;DR: This third book in the Made series was definitely the darkest of them all. While I did get on board with the romance and loved their connection, there were things that happened which made me pretty uncomfortable and situations do get dicey—it is a mafia romance though so you should expect it! Mila and Ronan were sunshine and killer grump opposites attract enemies-to-lovers and it was intense, and once again, the sexual tension slays!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Darkest Temptation by Danielle Lori”

Book Review: The Maddest Obsession by Danielle Lori

Check out my review for The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)!

Goodreads: The Maddest Obsession (Made #2)
Publisher: Self-published
Published: 13 April 2019
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance, Mafia

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

She fears the dark.
He rules it.

Her dresses are too tight, her heels too tall. She laughs too loudly, eats without decorum, and mixes up most sayings in the book. Little do most know it’s just a sparkly disguise, there to hide one panic attack at a time. Nobody can crack Gianna’s facade . . . no one anyway, until he comes along.

Most see a paragon of morality; a special agent upholding the law. In the New York underworld, others know him as a hustler, a killer, his nature as cold as the heart of ice in his chest. Christian Allister has always followed the life plan he’d envisioned in his youth, beneath the harsh lights of a frigid, damp cell. With a proclivity for order and the number three, he’s never been tempted to veer off course. But perhaps one should never say never . . .

One winter night and their lives intertwine. She hates him—his stone-cold demeanor, his arrogance and too-perceptive eye—but over the years, even as their games consist of insulting each other’s looks and intelligence, she begins to live to play with him.

Nowhere in Christian’s plans had he ever prepared for Gianna. She’s chaos embodied, not his type, and married, but none of that can stop his eyes from following her wherever she goes. All along, she doesn’t even know that she’s his—his frustration, his fascination.
His maddest obsession.

TL;DR: I’m a big fan of this series and this book was even better than the first but it is also much darker as our H/H have experienced a lot of trauma and abuse in their childhood. Gianna and Christian have scorchingly hot chemistry and a playfully antagonistic relationship full of sexual tension and banter and they’re one of my new favourite couples!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Maddest Obsession by Danielle Lori”

Book Review: The Sweetest Oblivion by Danielle Lori

Goodreads: The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
Publisher: Self-published
Published: 20 June 2018
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance, Mafia

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

She’s a romantic at heart, living in the most unromantic of worlds . . . Nicknamed Sweet Abelli for her docile nature, Elena smiles on cue and has a charming response for everything. She’s the favored daughter, the perfect mafia principessa . . . or was. Now, all she can see in the mirror’s reflection is blood staining her hands like crimson paint.

They say first impressions are everything . . .

In the murky waters of New York’s underworld, Elena’s sister is arranged to marry Nicolas Russo. A Made Man, a boss, a cheat—even measured against mafia standards. His reputation stretches far and wide and is darker than his black suits and ties. After his and Elena’s first encounter ends with an accidental glare on her part, she realizes he’s just as rude as he is handsome.

She doesn’t like the man or anything he stands for, though that doesn’t stop her heart from pattering like rain against glass when he’s near, nor the shiver that ghosts down her spine at the sound of his voice.
And he’s always near. Telling her what to do. Making her feel hotter than any future brother-in-law should. Elena may be the Sweet Abelli on the outside, but she’s beginning to learn she has a taste for the darkness, for rough hands, cigarettes, and whiskey-colored eyes. Having already escaped one scandal, however, she can hardly afford to be swept up in another.

Besides, even if he were hers, everyone knows you don’t fall in love with a Made Man . . . right?

This is a standalone forbidden romance.

TL;DR: The intense chemistry and slightly antagonistic relationship between Elena and Nicolas made for a delightful slow burn and extra steamy romance! This was character driven and it was easy to like both characters although they are morally grey and some of the more ‘mafia moments’ did make me cringe (just a bit)! The sexual tension was absolutely off-the-charts and so freaking good—I’m looking forward to continuing with the series!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Sweetest Oblivion by Danielle Lori”

Book Review: Credence by Penelope Douglas

Goodreads: Credence
Publisher: Penelope Douglas LLC
Published: 13 January 2020
Genre: New Adult Dark Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Three of them, one of her, and a remote cabin in the woods. Let the hot, winter nights ensue…

Tiernan de Haas doesn’t care about anything anymore. The only child of a film producer and his starlet wife, she’s grown up with wealth and privilege but not love or guidance. Shipped off to boarding schools from an early age, it was still impossible to escape the loneliness and carve out a life of her own. The shadow of her parents’ fame followed her everywhere.

And when they suddenly pass away, she knows she should be devastated. But has anything really changed? She’s always been alone, hasn’t she?

Jake Van der Berg, her father’s stepbrother and her only living relative, assumes guardianship of Tiernan who is still two months shy of eighteen. Sent to live with him and his two sons, Noah and Kaleb, in the mountains of Colorado, Tiernan soon learns that these men now have a say in what she chooses to care and not care about anymore.

As the three of them take her under their wing, teach her to work and survive in the remote woods far away from the rest of the world, she slowly finds her place among them.
And as a part of them.
She also realizes that lines blur and rules become easy to break when no one else is watching.
One of them has her.
The other one wants her.
But he…
He’s going to keep her.

*Credence is a full length, stand-alone romance suitable for readers 18+.

TL;DR: This book is not going to be for everyone but I’m glad I gave Penelope Douglas another try with this book. It’s taboo AF and there’s a lot of outrageous things that won’t sit well with many readers (dub con, bullying, violence) so I would highly recommend checking out content/trigger warnings before picking it up. That said, Penelope Douglas masterfully sets the scene in the remote mountains and it really does feel like anything can happen—and it does, obvi. PD also does something with these characters that had me wholly invested in their story that I literally stayed up all night to finish this almost 500-page book.

Continue reading “Book Review: Credence by Penelope Douglas”

Mini Reviews: Swoony Steamy Romance Novellas!

I’ve been in a pretty big romance mood over the last few months and that has led me to discovering quite a few books, authors and series that I’m eager to explore further. I’ve also read a surprising number of novellas that have worked for me and that I ended up really enjoying so I thought I’d share mini-reviews for three of them!

I Think I Might Love You (Love Sisters #1)
Publication Date: 25 April 2019
Genre:
Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Jaclyn Love is a magnet for trouble – it seems to follow her wherever she goes.

Unfortunately for Kadan Davenport, she also seems to be a magnet for him – even after a disastrous first impression that leaves him – literally – black and blue.

Jaclyn is busy trying to find some sort of balance, and Kadan is just trying not to get swept up in the chaos.

In a small city like Blakewood, it’s hard to avoid each other… especially when each additional encounter makes them wonder if they really want to.

“I Think I Might Love You” is a first-in-series novella.

This had me laughing out loud pretty much from the first scene! Jac and Kadan’s meet-cute was hilarious (although painful for him) and it was so bizarre but it set the tone perfectly for our characters and how the rest of the book would go.

Jac is a notorious rule-breaker in this small-town and she has a fairly long history of getting on the wrong side of the law, but she’s doing her best to set up a calmer life for herself. She’s bold, sassy and had such great energy on the page! Kadan was pretty much Jac’s direct opposite, and well, it’s no wonder that there’s a little animosity between them considering how they first meet! 😂 He’s a vet and overall a pretty stand-up guy who’s trying to build a solid and quiet life for himself, which isn’t working out well for him since he finds himself very attracted to Jac’s “bold personality and attitude problem”. I wouldn’t say theirs is an “enemies-to-lovers” romance, it’s more “hate to love” thanks to their disastrous meet-cute but their banter was so good! It’s the kind that comes across as dislike when, in reality, nobody is fooled and they know it’s attraction.

There are cats in bowls of chicken, dairy-free ice cream mix-ups, (disturbingly funny) farting disasters, a bit of fake dating and a whole lot of sizzling chemistry! I’ve never read a novella series before but this was the perfect palette cleanser between reads and I’m keen to read on about the other sisters!


My Dirty Duke: A Victorian Novella
Publication Date:
07 June 2021
Genre: Historial Romance, Erotica

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

Violet knows that her father’s best friend, the Duke of Ravensthorpe, is the most powerful man in all of London with a reputation for sin.

But nothing can stop Violet from wanting to shed her wallflower ways and fulfill her darkest, most forbidden desires…even if it means seducing a man twice her age.

“Shupe is a true queen of filth, expert at spinning heartfelt love stories alongside tantalizingly wicked scenarios.”
—Entertainment Weekly


Note: My Dirty Duke was originally published in the Duke I’d Like to F… anthology.

I’d never heard of this author before but Twitter romance led me to this book and I can’t say that I’m mad about it! I’m gonna be honest, I read this for the smut and it definitely delivered! 😂 This is an age-gap taboo romance, which is not something that I normally ever read (for no particular reason just don’t feel that it really interests me) so I wasn’t bothered by it in this story.

As this is a novella there’s not much in the way of character development or a strong plot, and their relationship to each other is already an established thing. I liked the Duke and Victoria. I thought they were both interesting characters and that the author handled the emotional and moral struggle (especially on his part) pretty well. I liked that Victoria was the one who pursued him—this girl knew exactly what she wanted and she managed to be bold despite being a little shy. I enjoyed reading about her passion for photography and of course, I liked how photographs had a role in their play, but I also liked how the Duke supported and encouraged the pursuit of her passion. Obviously, I liked the steamy bits and it did get quite steamy pretty quickly. The Duke ticked that dirty-talking hero box and so if that’s your thing, I would definitely recommend checking this out (especially if you have Kindle Unlimited)!

Were there some questionable moments in the characters’ actions and the progression of the plot? Sure, but I also didn’t really expect much to be developed or expanded upon in a novella, so I didn’t think too much about it. Overall, I enjoyed this and would be curious to check out more by this author in the future! If you’ve read her books, what’d you recommend checking out next?


Surrender: An Erotic Short
Publication Date: 16 August 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotica

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

“In twelve years unless we’re with other people I’ll fly you somewhere and you’ll give me two nights…”

The pact was so ridiculous, Yara forgot about it soon after it was made.
What were the odds she and Lennox would still be single in twelve years?
What were the odds they’d still have the hots for each other?
Practically zero, right?
Until they weren’t.
Yara is tempted to decline when Lennox emails her plane tickets and a reminder she promised him two nights for the full exploration of her body, but her curiosity gets the best of her.
What follows is more than either of them could ever bargain for and Yara learns that sometimes the key to indescribable pleasure is to surrender.

I picked this up immediately after seeing this terrifying yet hilariously thirsty image on Nick’s review. Her reviews have yet to steer me wrong and I’m glad I picked this up! It was fun, fast and super steamy and the perfect transition read to my next (presumably less erotic) romance.

This is basically about two people who come together to fulfil a sex pact they made after uni. Yara and Lennox promised each other that if they were single after 12 years they’d get together for two nights and wow hey, here they are and it was F-I-R-E! Despite only being 52 pages long, I was still able to get a good feel for both characters’ personalities and I loved them. Plus, the chemistry was intense and the sexual tension was almost palpable! Yes, there’s a lot of sex in this book but they (surprisingly) don’t just bang the day away and we see them reconnect as friends but also explore the potential of this connection they have being more serious than a sex pact. But, the steamy is definitely worth the build up! 😉

I hadn’t read anything by Rilzy Adams before this but I’ll be looking their books up now and I’m keen to check out more.

Have you read any of these novellas or are they on your TBR? Do you have romance novella faves to recommend? I’m definitely keen on trying more novellas soon!

First Lines Friday – 17 September 2021

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“The devil had a name—Cristiano de la Rosa—but from this day forward, I would call him husband.”

Do you recognise the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 17 September 2021”

ARC Review: With You Forever by Chloe Liese

Special thanks to the author for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: With You Forever (Bergman Brothers #4)
Publication date: 14 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)


Axel
Rooney Sullivan is sunshine incarnate. Warm, bright, always smiling, she’s everything I’m not and the last person I have any business desiring. Desperate to hide a hopeless attraction, I’ve done everything possible to keep my distance…until a charades game gone wrong brought that to a grinding halt. 

Since then, steering clear of Rooney has been impossible. In a matter of months, she’s kissed me speechless, commandeered my art career, and infiltrated not only my dreams but my home. The woman who was once avoidable has become the last thing I needed: temptingly within reach.
 
Rooney
Axel Bergman is a gorgeous grump who doesn’t have the time of day for me. Thankfully, I’ve kept my crush under wraps…well, until I kissed him. Charades got away from me, okay? It was an accident! I haven’t seen him since, which is for the best. My life is a mess, and the last thing I need is to embarrass myself further with the man who avoids me like that’s his job rather than painting modern masterpieces.
 
It seems the universe, however, has a different plan. When Axel and I unexpectedly find our paths—and problems—converging, a marriage of convenience proves the perfect solution. At least, until I’m facing my most serious problem yet: a once-loveless marriage of convenience that’s inconveniently become a love match, after all.

THIS BOOK IS OUT IN TWO DAYS!
PRE-ORDER NOW:

Continue reading “ARC Review: With You Forever by Chloe Liese”

ARC Review: When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting

Special thanks to Sara at St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: When Sparks Fly
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: 21 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(2.5 pandas)

Running the Spark House, a hotel/event space that has been in her family for years, has been Avery Spark’s lifelong dream. After years of working hard and making personal sacrifices, Avery and her two younger sisters have turned the Spark House into the premier destination in Colorado Springs. Avery is living her best life—she works with her sisters and loves every minute of it, she has a great group of friends, and she lives in a fantastic condo with her best friend Declan. She might not have any love in her life, but she’s happy.

But everything comes to a screeching halt when Avery is in a car accident, leaving her immobile for weeks. After nearly losing Avery, Declan insists that he will be the one to take care of her while she recovers. However, as Declan becomes Avery’s caretaker, lines begin to blur.

Avery and Declan have been best friends since college and always had an attraction to one another, but when she ended up dating his best friend, Sam, they successfully stamped down any feelings they may have ever had for one another. Now, as Declan and Avery spend more time together, they each begin to wonder what would’ve happened if she’d dated him instead of Sam. What starts as a friend helping out another friend turns into foreplay and, before they realize it, they recognize how deeply they care for one another. But when things get serious their past threatens to destroy everything they have built.

TL;DR: Sadly, sparks didn’t exactly fly for me with this book. There were definitely some cute fluffy moments between Avery and Declan and I enjoyed reading about the Avery and her sisters running Spark House, plus I appreciated that Hunt emphasised the importance of seeking mental health support by seeing a therapist. Ultimately though, the writing felt stilted and repetitive, and I was unable to really connect with the characters or feel invested in their romance. I’m in the minority though but it was still a quick and easy read and would be a good palate cleanser between genres.

Continue reading “ARC Review: When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting”

ARC Review: The Meeting Point by Olivia Lara

I read this book as part of The Write Reads blog tour.
Special thanks to NetGalley and Aria Fiction for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Meeting Point
Publisher: Aria Fiction
Publish Date: 02 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(2.5 pandas)

What if the Lift driver who finds your cheating boyfriend’s phone holds the directions to true love?

‘Who are you and why do you have my boyfriend’s phone?’

‘He left it in my car. You must be the blonde in the red dress? I’m the Lift driver who dropped you two off earlier.’

And with these words, the life of the brunette and t-shirt wearing Maya Maas is turned upside down. Having planned to surprise her boyfriend, she finds herself single and stranded in an unknown city on her birthday.

So when the mystery driver rescues Maya with the suggestion that she cheers herself up at a nearby beach town, she jumps at the chance to get things back on track. She wasn’t expecting a personalised itinerary or the easy companionship that comes from opening up to a stranger via text, let alone the possibility it might grow into something more…

Come on this 5* journey to love, laughter and back again, perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Josie Silver and Sally Thorne.

TL;DR: I read Olivia Lara’s debut last year and I enjoyed it well enough to want to read more of her books, and I think I had very high expectations, especially after seeing how much everyone has loved this. Sadly, it really didn’t work for me! There was a lot of telling and not enough showing and as a result I couldn’t connect with the characters and I actually found it difficult to like the heroine. I’m definitely in the minority with my unpopular opinion though so I would encourage you to check out other reviews and to try the book for yourself because it does have a cute concept!

The majority of the book is set in Carmel by the Sea, which sounds like a really charming and picturesque little coast town and reading this book made me want to visit it ASAP! I would love to retrace Maya’s steps in the town and of course, to Big Sur and all the other places in between. It wasn’t hard to picture the story and locations come to life! I wouldn’t necessarily say this was a small town romance but it had the vibes and it leant the story some comfort and charm that I think (generally) worked well with the concept.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance involving a Lyft driver and I thought that it was quite a romantic and serendipitous sort of idea that, as a hopeless romantic, I was completely sold on! They also played a game of 50 questions, which I love the idea of and it reminded me of the experiment where couples ask 36 questions that can potentially lead to love. I thought there were some really sweet and funny moments in their banter while they played the game and Maya explored Carmel by the Sea for the first time. That said, even though this started well, it only took a few questions for Maya to already start feeling strongly for our mysterious driver and it rapidly became ‘instalove‘— a trope that I’m not fond of. It just never feels realistic to me and sadly, it was no different here. I also thought the romance itself wasn’t helped by the characters or the somewhat plodding storyline.

Despite being almost 400 pages, not a lot happens and the story moves along at a crawl because of the repetitive nature of Maya’s monologue. I often found myself feeling bored and I started skimming pages towards the middle of the book. Having read the author’s debut last year, I found that the same issues I had then were also the same now. There’s a lot of telling and not enough showing and that made it harder to connect to the characters and their emotions, and to feel invested in the romance. Ultimately though, it was the characters themselves that I had the most trouble with, and particularly with our heroine, Maya.

I don’t like to say negative things about heroines in romances because they’re always judged the harshest, and over the years I’ve come to appreciate flawed but realistic characters. However, I really struggled to like Maya! She’s judgmental, entitled and so bitter. She didn’t have the smoothest path over the last few years but I just didn’t understand her thought process and reaction to things. She hated Ethan before even meeting him because he wrote a story that she felt was hers. As he’s a popular romance author this story got published and she’s extremely bitter about it because it was “her story first”. Her reaction to the whole thing was so petty and immature and… W H Y? I also didn’t like how she refused to take responsibility for the decisions she made whether that was in her past and her present. She also becomes a ‘fairy godmother/saviour’ type of character as she pushes people together through various situations and credits herself for giving them a ‘happy ever after’ that she has created in her head. It was a bit much? Suffice to say, her character made it very difficult for me to enjoy the story.

While I wish I could say that our hero was a lot better, we didn’t really get to know him. He’s a famous author, twin to Celine and is divorced but we don’t get much depth from him. I guess he seemed like a nice enough bloke, but what we do learn of him is from Maya’s POV and again it’s a lot of telling and not showing. We’re told “he can be silly and funny” but his expressions are always blank or severe, and Maya can’t even tell what he’s thinking or feeling 90% of the time. It made it difficult to care about him and to understand his motives or what drives him.

Overall, I guess you can say I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would! The idea sounded really fun and cute, plus, I loved the coastal small town setting, but the writing wasn’t compelling and I cared very little for the characters, and as a result, I wasn’t sold on their romance.

Have you read The Meeting Point or is it on your TBR?